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GOD'S GREAT FAITHFULNESS

You can find hope in your darkest hour through the faithfulness of God. Harry Teuchert knows this is true. For years Harry had been a successful publisher of materials for churches. Everything in his life seemed to be perfect: A lovely home, a family, a solid future; but all this suddenly collapsed. Harry's wife told him she was leaving him. She was in love with someone else.

Devastated, Harry tried to cope, work, continue with his life, but this tragedy was too overwhelming. Despite all the other good things in his life, Harry felt like a complete failure with nothing to live for.

He was on the road to meet with a church about their anniversary publication. Arriving early, Harry sat down in the fellowship hall. Suddenly, he began to think about suicide. His life was over. All was finished. As he sat at a table, he began to cry intensely, holding his head in his hands. The more Harry wept, the more he was convinced that his life had ended. He would continue no more. He was beaten. It would be so easy to end it all.

In total despair he looked up, and noticed a faded poster on the far wall. In that picture was the image of a man in the same despair Harry was going through -- Head in his hands in complete anguish. Then, as Harry studied the poster further, he noticed a smaller image in the lower right corner of the poster: Three crosses, on a hill, surrounded by a dark sky. Beneath the center cross these simple words were inscribed, "I know how you feel; I've been there myself."

While staring at those words, Harry fell to his knees and prayed, "God, help me." Suddenly God touched Harry with a new flood of hope. He got up telling himself, "I'm going to beat this thing. I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me." Harry got on with his life. And today he is serving the God who came to him in his moment of greatest trial.

(Original source unknown - found in christianglobe.com sermon "Help Me Make It Through The Night" by King Duncan - John 3:1-21 - 2005)

The Lord used a faded poster to remind Harry of God's great faithfulness. And I hope He uses Harry's story to remind you.

(From Rick Crandall's Sermon "God's Great Faithfulness")

 
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BUILD CHARACTER INTO YOUR CHILDREN

David Kraft was a big, strong man -- all muscle. At the age of 32, he was six feet, two inches tall and weighed 200 pounds. He had been to seminary and ended up working with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, because of his athletic background.

Then he was diagnosed with cancer. It wracked his body, and over a period of time, he dropped from 200 pounds to 80 pounds.

When he was about ready to pass from this life into eternity, he asked his father to come into his hospital room. Lying there in bed, he looked up and said, "Dad, do you remember when I was a little boy, how you used to hold me in your arm close to your chest?"

David's father nodded. Then David said, "Do you think, Dad, you could do that one more time? One last time?"

Again his father nodded. He bent down to pick up his 32-year-old, six-foot, two-inch, 80 pound son, and held him close to his chest, so that the son's face was right next to the father's face. They were eyeball to eyeball. Tears were streaming down both faces, and the son said to his father, "Thank you for building the kind of character into my life that can enable me to face even a moment like this." (Ron Lee Davis, "Introducing Christ to Your Child," Preaching Today, Tape No.92)

Men, I dare you to be that kind of father (or grandfather) to your children. Dare to build into them the kind of character that will enable them to face anything in life. Then you will be a real leader, not only in your home, but among your peers, as well.

(From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Loving Leadership, 6/17/2010)

 
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DRIVE-THRU FELLOWSHIP

This week I read a story about a pastor traveling with a Brazilian seminary student. Along the way the pastor asked the student if he would like to stop for a cup of coffee. The student said, "I would be honored." So he swung into a Starbucks, went through the drive-thru.

Once on their way the student was very quiet and when pressed about his silence he said, "I thought you were asking me to be your friend. I thought we were going to sit together and share life."

Living in fellowship is basically, sharing life... all of life.

(From a sermon by Monty Newton, The Making of a Compelling Christian Community, 8/24/2012)

 
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AN ARM AROUND ME--COMMUNION MEDITATION

Jackie Robinson was the first black person to play major league baseball. Breaking baseball’s color barrier, he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. Players would stomp on his feet and kick him.

While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he made an error. The fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans jeered. Then, shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.

We are sometimes like Jackie Robinson, full of shame. Sometimes, like Jackie, our shame is from nothing we've done. Sometimes our shame is from our own sin and guilt. And like Pee Wee Reese, Jesus comes and slips his arm around us, and bears our shame for us. ...

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Victor Yap
 
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One of the most powerful prayers in the midst of suffering I have read was uncovered from the horrors of Ravensbruck concentration camp. Ravensbruck was a concentration camp built in 1939 for women. Over 90,000 women and children perished in Ravensbruck, murdered by the Nazis. Corrie Ten Boom, who wrote The Hiding Place, was imprisoned there too. The prayer, found in the clothing of a dead child, says:

O Lord, remember not only the men and woman of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.

 
Contributed By:
Bill Sullivan
 
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Last week, Bernie came to the church door. He showed up about five minutes before I was getting ready to leave for an appointment, and my first response to his arrival was, oh, no, not now.

Bernie had been drinking – I could smell it on his breath. He was sweating profusely and was a little bit shaky, though he spoke clearly without slurring. Bernie asked if I could help him, and I asked what I could do for him. He said he was an alcoholic, and he needed a ride to Hillcrest Hospital, because he’d been part of a 12 step alcohol program, and had “fallen off the wagon.”

I thought, OK, I can take him to the hospital on my way to my appointment. I was relieved he hadn’t asked for money, because we cannot give any money to someone who has been drinking.

In my five-minute ride to the hospital, where I dropped him off at the emergency room, Bernie told me he really loved Jesus, but was having a hard time staying off the alcohol. I told him that admitting himself to this program at the hospital was a good step, and that I was sure the Lord would help him. Bernie was clearly hurting physically, but seemed genuinely touched that I would help him in this small way.

When we got to the drop-off point in front of the ER, Bernie thanked me – almost excessively – for helping him. He reached over across the seat and wanted a hug. Smell, sweat and all, I hugged Bernie, and he hung on tightly for a moment as I assured him of God’s love and care for Him. As he stumbled away from the van, he called back for me to pray for him, and I assured him I would. And I did, as I drove on to my appointment – I did pray that Bernie would find help and find compassion from the Lord.

And the Lord spoke to me clearly that, despite my initial attitude, all Bernie really needed was compassion.

I watched as Bernie sort of stumbled into the ER at Hillcrest. I was ashamed of my initial attitude, and the Lord said to me clearly: all he needed was a little compassion. All he needed was to be treated with respect and dignity.

And at that moment, I knew God would have me bring this message to TCF this morning.

We’re in a time in our fellowship when we need this reminder - of the source of compassion, and of how God uses us as His tools of compassion.

You may have heard the phrase, “Been there, done that” – it’s the title of this message. It’s a phrase that represents the idea that someone has already experienced something. When someone says that to you, it means they have some understanding of what they’re discussing with you. In some ways, it might mean that they have sympathy for you, maybe even real compassion, if that’s what’s called for.

In the vernacular, it mostly means they can relate to you and your experiences, and admittedly, it’s often a dismissive way of expressing that, whether good or bad, they’ve “been there, and done that.”

In our Christian lives, in times of difficulty or suffering, it’s often helpful to talk to someone who can relate to your experience. Now, I’ve never been an alcoholic like Bernie, but I know what it is to be hurting, for different reasons than Bernie,
and more importantly, I know the source of real compassion, and real comfort.

His compassion and comfort are revealed in His Word. The Word of God is living and active, and it’s for this time and this place, whenever and wherever this time and place might be.

God can speak to us through His Word, just as clearly as I’m speaking to you, by using these words written almost two millennia ago.

2 Cor. 1:3-5 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

 
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John Shearhart
 
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We know that 80% of the town of Meulaboh in Aceh, Indonesia was destroyed by the Tsunami waves and 80% of the people also died. This is one of the towns that was hit the hardest.
But there is a fantastic testimony from Meulaboh. In that town are about 400 Christians. They wanted to celebrate Christmas on December 25th but were not allowed to do so by the Muslims of Meulaboh. They were told if they wanted to celebrate Christmas they needed to go outside the city of Meulaboh on a high hill and there celebrate Christmas.
Because the Christians desired to celebrate Christmas the 400 believers left the city on December 25th and after they celebrated Christmas they stayed overnight on the hill.
As we all know the morning of December 26 there was the earthquake followed by the Tsunami waves destroying most of the city of Meulaboh and thousands were killed. The 400 believers were on the mountain and were all saved from destruction.
Now the Muslims of Meulaboh are saying that the God of the Christians punished them for forbidding the Christians from celebrating Christmas in the city. Others are questioning why so many Muslims died while not even one of the Christians died there.
Had the Christians insisted on their rights to celebrate Christmas in the city, they would have all died.

Bill Hekman
Pastor Calvary Life Fellowship in Indonesia.

 
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GETTING PAST YOUR PAST

Consider Charles Colson, the aide to Richard Nixon who was sent to jail for Watergate. As as a result of his experience as a convicted felon, Colson founded Prison Fellowship, now the world’s largest Christian outreach to prisoners and their families. Prison Fellowship has more than 50,000 volunteers working in hundreds of prisons in 88 countries around the world. A ministry that has blessed millions of people got started twenty-five years ago because Charles Colson committed a crime. God’s eternal purposes for that man included even the sin that sent him to prison. It was a part of God’s plan from the very beginning.

But the story that matters most to you isn’t Peter’s, or Paul’s, or even Charles Colson’s. It’s yours. And what I want to say to you this morning is that the story of your life has not been ruined, not by your sin or anyone else’s. God’s good plan for your life is not buried under the mistakes of the past. God has a plan for your life, a good plan, a wise plan, a loving plan, a sovereign plan, and that plan is still in effect. You haven’t missed it. He is working ...

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Saeed Richardson
 
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It’s like the guy you may have seen, that acts like a gentleman, sweet and loving, taking a lady out to a nice dinner, and a romantic evening, only so he can get “something” out of the deal. Instead of doing all these things out of the sincerity of his heart, he’s really just putting out some money so he can get what he wants. And he gets mad and throws a temper - an often times destructive temper resulting in violence - because he didn’t get what he wanted. He’s trying to pay for “services rendered” - last time I checked that’s called prostitution.

This is gonna be a tough question, but are we trying to prostitute our worship, our prayer, our time in fellowship, our participation in church, or even our tithes and offerings - paying for services with our time, our talents, and our treasures- just to get something back?

 
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Terry Laughlin
 
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Heaven, an Inheritance

Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going... I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:1-4, 6)
The Holy Scriptures teach clearly that heaven is a real place, a permanent place, a personal place and a holy place. It is also an inheritance for those who say "yes" to Jesus Christ.

In his gospel, the beloved John conveys a powerful truth of what one must become in order to inherit eternal salvation. "...I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3) And once more, "...You must be born again." (John 3:7) Twice Jesus tells Nicodemus, already a Pharisee and religious leader, "I tell you the truth..."

The truth for you is that a preacher saying nice things, nor beautiful hymns being sung at your funeral, nor the local paper announcing that you were a member of such and such church, nor even being in church nearly every Sunday will gain you entrance into heaven. Being truly born again is a necessity.

Many Scripture passages tell what God will do for a person who through repentance accepts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Ezekiel 36: 26, 27 is one of the most clear. It has been used frequently by Dr. Billy Graham to explain what God wants to do in the hearts and lives of those coming forward to receive the forgiveness found only in Christ. The verses say, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep my laws."

A "heart of stone" is inflexible, unyielding and insensitive. It is not apt to receive from or have any devoted affection toward its Creator. A man with a heart of stone has no fellowship with the Lord. He does not do the will of God, thus, he does what seems right in his own eyes which will lead to his own destruction. God alone gives physical life and He alone can give spiritual life in what Jesus says is being "born again."

When God supernaturally gives a repentant person a "heart of flesh" and puts His Spirit in a new believer, that person becomes sensitive and alive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Only then can he determine and do the will of God. This enables him to know the joy that comes from obedience to the Word of God. Once the Holy Spirit of God has entered the heart and life of a repentant person, they are never the same! Guaranteed! The Bible says they are a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Jesus made these truths very clear to Nicodemus, and He desires to make them crystal clear to all who will hear even now. In heaven there will be only those who are born again, those who have trusted Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord.

The Holy Spirit moved the apostle Paul to write to (and about) authentic Christians, "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." (Romans 8:9)

Will you receive Christ today?

 
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